Hashtags: The What, Why and How for Promoting Your Book

It was just a few years ago that the hashtag was better known as a pound sign that was on the dial of our phone.

Today #hashtag is one of most popular trending terms on the Internet. Let’s start with a little Fallon and Timberlake to understand the whole #hashtag Phenom:


Okay, all joking aside, as a self-published author; it is important to understand how #hashtags work, why you want to use them and how hashtags are used most effectively. As we continue our exploration into the world of Twitter as a marketing tool (Did you read my article on Twitter for marketing from the other day? Check it out.) let’s explore hashtags.

How #Hashtags Work

Hashtags originally appeared on Twitter but now can be found on Facebook, Instagram, Vine and a variety of other social media channels. They were developed as a sorting tool, a way to group together topics for easier search.

One of the best ways to understand examples of grouping tweets through the use of hashtags; is to examine how television uses them. Pick your favorite show or sporting event and you can now “watch” the show with other fans around the globe in REAL TIME through the use of hashtags.

You don’t have to know each other or be following each other; simply search the name of the show using a #hashtag; #Oscars, #MarchMadness, #AmericanIdol, etc. and you will discover the most recent tweets about that topic from around the globe.

Take a moment to search using a hashtag for an event that interests you. In light of the current basketball finals, here is a snapshot of #ClevelandCavaliers.

hashtagWhy Use #Hashtags?

Since the use of hashtags does not require being connected to anyone in particular, you can use hashtags to share information that a wide variety of people may be interested in.

Example; you are writing a young adult fantasy novel about a group of teens that live in Wyoming.

Well, a quick hashtag search of #wyomingteens and #teensinsyoming quickly let you know that there are no teens in Wyoming as the search gave me nothing. Sorry – I’m chuckling. Clearly that wasn’t the best example.

Take Two: Let’s say you want to search for information about Wyoming to gather opinions, photos, comments, events and cultural knowledge. A quick search for #Wyoming provides scads of information.

You’ll remember from my article “Help, Someone is Stealing my Work” that you can use Twitter advanced search for questions people are asking about a given topic using hashtags.

You can also create a hashtag of your own to get the conversation started. If you are planning a book signing event, create a hashtag to represent the event and start talking about it before, during and after. If I were creating an event to promote my book Finding Your Voice the hashtag might be #Findyourvoice2015 or #FYVEvent2015 or #FYVwithLisa. Now when anyone talks about the event and uses the hashtag, all of that information will be searchable in the future.

Use #Hashtags Effectively

You can use Hashtags or you can overuse them as the example Fallon and Timberlake so eloquently demonstrate. Mashable, my favorite website for all things social media, offers some great advice on using #hashtags in the article A Beginners Guide to Hashtags. Here are a few tips to consider:

Be specific: If you’re using a hashtag to join a conversation, make sure the hashtag is specific and relevant to your topic. If you’re talking about Obama’s health care plan, use #Obamacare instead of simply #Obama. A vague or generic hashtag like #health or #opinion isn’t effective either.

Keep it simple: Hashtags, like links, look like spam if they are used too often. Three hashtags should be the maximum on Twitter and Facebook, but you can get away with more hashtags on Instagram and Vine. And don’t hashtag the same word twice (“#Gravity is a great movie! Everybody go see #Gravity”). It’s #redundant.

Give context: A tweet that contains only hashtags is not only confusing — it’s boring. If your tweet simply reads, “#happy,” your followers will have no idea what you’re talking about. Similarly, if you tweet, “#BreakingBad is #awesome,” you’re not really adding much to the conversation.

So let’s explore some examples of tweets using hashtags that would help promote your self-published book:

  • MC Cynthia, in my latest #youngadult novel represents strong #teengirls facing and dealing with #bullies at school.
  • Basing my newest #scifi novel on an episode of #12Monkeys season one. Unexpected twist – #12Racoons! Thoughts?
  • What if #HungerGames took place in a retirement home? #Fictionfun #sayWHAT?
  • Signing my book #FindingYourVoice at local library, Sun, June 14 2pm http://tinyurltoevent.com
  • Help me #nameacharacter she is female, mid-30s with anger issues. Ideas?
  • What is the best way to #killacharacter in a western set in 1880s; #gunshot, #sickness #drought #alcoholism?


Bottom line: One of the best things about Twitter is the fact that it is REAL time conversation. Go on Twitter and you will find people chatting about any number of things around the clock, around the globe. Hashtags help to cut through the clutter to find the people talking about things that interest you and your readers. If you are not ready to start hashtagging, at least sign up for Twitter account and conduct a few searches to see how people share information.

Tune in later this week for example of successful authors and how they use Twitter.

Let’s close it out with a little more #hashtag fun, this time with Fallon and Jonah Hill: